In which you will find
words of truth on
reality and conjecture about
the ways of the world
and its inhabitants on all that is done
blind eyes and educate
an unknowing heart
and the reader shall swiftly read it and understand
knowledge and wisdom
“For it is your wisdom and understanding before the eyes of the nations.”
In this pamphlet we come, we the unworthy, to check with fear and love the source of Chazal’s wisdom about the facts of existence which are among the roots of reasons for the commandments and halacha. And, G-d willing, we will also clarify well and get to the root of matters and may it be His will that those who walk in darkness see the light. The pamphlet has been widely distributed and achieved great success, and is now being distributed again in an improved second edition in response to demand.
It is accepted by us that, as the Written Torah was given at Sinai, so too were the scientific words in the Talmud handed down from Sinai. These are the words of Chazal (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 21b), who said that 50 measures of understanding were created in this world and all were given to Moshe Rabbeynu OBM at Sinai aside from one, as it is said: “That You have made him little less than divine.”
And so writes the Ramban in his introduction to Genesis: “All that was said through prophecy, from the matter of the chariot and the matter of creation,and what was received of them by the sages, with the four lower powers—mineral, vegetable, the mobile soul and the speaking soul—all were said to Moshe Rabbeynu, etc. The fifty measures of understanding are one measure of mineralogy, and one measure of knowledge of ground plants, and one measure of knowledge of trees and animals and birds and reptiles, etc. All these are the knowledge of Chazal and their understanding, and about their wisdom it has been said that if we are as men, they are as angels.
And to check the knowledge of Chazal we will begin with the vermin and, G-d willing, will prove that Chazal apparently did not receive or did not understand Moshe Rabbeynu, and we will find that their knowledge of nature was in line with the opinion of those generations.
And before I begin with Chazal’s knowledge I will put forward that which we know in the simplest scientific manner—the question is asked: Is spontaneous abiogenesis possible? (From the Greek: spontaneous creation of life from objects not alive.) That is—is the spontaneous creation of living matter or life forms from inanimate material possible?
The early generations believed that creatures such as vermin and insects and even fish and rodents were created from mold, that is, from rotted material or from the mud. This opinion obviously relied on the appearance of these type of creatures in different materials with no source of life apparent to the naked eye. Given the influence of Aristotle, this opinion reigned in biology during antiquity, the Middle Ages, and up through the 17th century. Eventually, of course, it was proved for all those cases that living creatures are only created from their similar parents and that life can not stem from anything other than life. Never is life spontaneously created from inanimate materials.
In Masechet Shabbat 107b it is said “A louse does not reproduce,”and therefore, according to the Sages, one is permitted to kill it on Shabbat. And on page 12b it states: “Rabbah killed them” (Rashi’s commentary: “killed them even on Sabbath,” the reason being that lice do not reproduce, but “from the flesh of man they swarm,” end of quote.)
And the Tosfot there says: Lest he kill—it is written that there are two types of lice, the black jumping louse which is created from the dust, as is written “Hit the dust of the ground and it will become lice,” and there is another type, swarming head lice which do not reproduce, but come from the sweat of man. And the Rosh, in chapter one, section 29, says: One may kill white head lice which come from old clothes.
The Ran also writes: “Rav Huna said: ‘and all the fleas’ is the jumping louse, and should you ask why is the jumper forbidden, as it is from the dust and does not reproduce, it should be said that this principle serves us only to exclude vermin created from mold, such as lice — but all that is created from dust has vitality in it, as though it had reproduced from male and female, and one who kills it on Shabbat is liable,” end of quote.
It follows from what is written that, according to Chazal, the louse does not reproduce but they were divided as to how it was created. According to Rashi it is created from man’s flesh, according to the Tosfos from the sweat of man, according to the Rosh from old clothes, and according to the Ran from mold. (A flea, according to some of the Rishonim, is created from dust.)
We will add and emphasize that the Gemara in Shabbat, on page 107b, asks: “And does the louse not reproduce? Yet it is said: G-d sits and nourishes all, from the karnei re’emim to the eggs of lice” (meaning that there are eggs from which come lice, and therefore lice do reproduce). And they explained it: “There is a creature which is called “eggs of lice” (that is, there is a different type of insect whose name is “eggs of lice”) and this answer proves howresolved Chazal were in their opinion that lice do not reproduce through procreation, but are created from inanimate matter.
After we brought these things to the attention of those who seek truth, some dialecticians tried to find in them a flaw. When they found no aid in the halachic writings, they went to external literature. They did well to go to science texts, for there you will find research and examination with no favoritism, only research for its own sake. They brought, from the Encyclopedia HaChai V’HaTzomeach Shel Eretz Yisrael (Ministry of Defense Publishing—the book is found in every public library and is well worth reading), that “there are lice which reproduce by parthenogenesis.” And you, the wise student who shows no favoritism, come and see how your rabbis answer—we claim apples and they answer oranges. Or, perhaps, they didn’t understand what they read at all, or even worse. Parthenogenesis is sexual reproduction, but the female provides the impregnating material to the egg she produces. Is this “creation from mold”? Is this reproduction in which there is no resemblance between the inanimate material which births and the living thing which is born? Something born through parthenogenesis is exactly like the being which birthed it. On the other hand, what similarity is there between mold (or flesh, sweat, or rags) and a living, crawling louse?
Their explanations are worth nothing—quite the opposite. They’ve strengthened our words, that spontaneous creation of life from the inanimate, to which sages had attributed the louse, never has happened.
And we will add that the other lice mentioned by the dialecticians are said, in the encyclopedia, to mainly exist on birds, and few exist on mammals; and there is no way they can survive on humans. Therefore, of course, they have no relation to this topic which deals with lice on people’s heads and clothing.
The Rambam, in “Sefer HaMitzvot” prohibition 177, counted the insects which do not reproduce as a prohibition of their own and thereby determined a special commandment within the 613 commandments, and thus he wrote: “that we have been warned against eating the insects which are created from mold, etc. This is the difference between when it says ‘the insects which teem upon the earth’ and ‘the insects which swarm upon the earth’, because the insects which teem upon the earth are insects which have the power of procreation, and thus they will teem upon the earth, and the insects which swarm are the insects created from mold, which do not procreate and do not birth other creatures similar to themselves,” etc., end of quote.
And the Rambam once again recalled this issue for prohibition 179 and expanded on it there, to the point that he stood as a bulwark against those who would appeal against it, as he said, “It is not considered impossible that the ant or wasp birth from mold, and others like them amongst the birds and vermin, which are from mold within food, except by those who know nothing of natural wisdom.”
And you, the wise and thoughtful reader, please carefully consider the significance of the matter: according to the explicit words of Chazal Rambam determined a clear halacha and counted among the 613 commandments the above-mentioned prohibition whose number is 177, the prohibition against eating “insects which are created from mold.”
But if there never were such vermin in G-d’s creation, birthed from mold, then this commandment could never have been fulfilled (unlike other commandments, such as sacrifices, which were fulfilled at the time of the Holy Temple and it is only now that they can not be fulfilled). Since it was based on an error in [understanding] reality, it has no standing, nor can it be fulfilled. Therefore the number of commandments is not 613 but 612, and all issues which rely on this number fall apart (such as, for example, the gematria of tzitzit with the 5 ties and 8 strings, which is the number 613, see Rashi, Menachot 43b); everything which is connected to the combination 613, such as 248 positive commandments and 365 prohibitions which together are 613, once again, is invalid, and a wise person will fear and fall silent.
Another example of a creature which does not exist in reality is the mouse mentioned in Masechet Hulin, page 126b, in the Mishna: “A mouse who is half flesh and half dirt, one who touches the flesh is impure, the dirt, pure.” And on page 127 Chazal learned from the verse “the insects, etc. I will take a mouse whose half is flesh and half is dirt, which does not reproduce.” That is, they defined “a mouse which does not reproduce” from what is written in the Torah.
Rashi, in Mishna 126 commented: “There is a type of mouse which does not reproduce but which is itself made from dirt, as trash which teems with worms, and if the mouse has not yet been created—only its right or left half—one who touches the flesh is impure, the dirt side is pure.”
The Tosfot Yom Tov, in Hulin 89, Mishna 6 even brings a proof about the creation of the world from this mouse: “And this, in my opinion, is a great complaint against those who believe in the primordial nature [of the world],” end of quote.
And not only the Rishonim thought that, the Achronim after them did, too. The Tiferet Yisrael (89, Mishna 6, Hulin), despite hearing that there was no such creature, wrote thus: “I heard apostates mocking about a creature mentioned here and in Sanhedrin, denying and saying that it does not exist in reality at all, and I wanted to recall here what I saw in a German book, written by a wise man named Link, famous for his knowledge of secular wisdom, in his book Ihrvelt, part one, page 327, who did find such a creature in Egypt, in the province of Tahabaim; the mouse is called Dipus Vaculus in Egyptian and in German is called Springmaus. Its frontmost parts, the head, chest and paws are well-described, and its hindmost parts are still covered in clods of earth, until one day it becomes completely flesh,” end of quote.
And the Mishnah Brura, written by the author of “Chofetz Chayim” who lived after it was definitely known that there is no life but from life, ruled and wrote (section 316, paragraph 9, subsection 38): “Since red rams reproduce and multiply, it is the same for all which reproduce and multiply; this is not so forlice which do not come from male and female, but come from sweat and are not considered creatures; however fleas, even though they also do not reproduce, since they were created from dust have vitality as though they were created of male and female and one who kills them is culpable,” end of quote (and see Biur Halacha, where it says “To kill it—of the wonders of creations of insects and vermin and worms…”)
What follows from all written above is that the early sages thought and gave halachic rulings and determined one of the 613 commandments according to the theory that life can be created from sweat and from mold, etc. This is exactly what the Gentile scholars, in their lack of knowledge, said at that time.
Today we know that this conjecture has been totally refuted and never has life been spontaneously created from the inanimate. Since it is impossible, Heaven forbid, to blame this lack of scientific knowledge on G-d who knows all things, it follows that Chazal’s knowledge in matters of reality comes not from the Divine or from Sinai but from their own understanding.
But the Achronim, like the Chofetz Chaim, believed with simple faith that Chazal spoke with Divine knowledge and didn’t even bother to check the accuracy of their words, though it was already well-known that they erred. And therefore there is no doubt that the Achronim were and are chained to this very day by childish interpretations of Chazal’s words, such as “He looked in the Torah and created the world,” meaning that the mistake of a Tanna or Amora in Gemara or Mishna are like the Torah according to which the world was created. And the learned one will fall silent.
Here it is appropriate to conclude with the words of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, part 3, chapter 14: “And do not ask me to reconcile everything that [the Sages] said on matters of astronomy with the situation as it really is, since science at that time was lacking and they did not speak so because they had a tradition of those things from the Prophets, but from the scholars of those generations in those disciplines or they heard them from the scholars of those generations, and this is not the reason to say of those things that match the truth that they are incorrect or accidentally correct, but all that can be clarified so that it matches proven reality is better and more correct,” end of quote.
We find that also in the opinion of the Rambam, the “great eagle” and authoritative halachic rule-maker, Chazal’s knowledge was no greater than that of the scholars of those early generations, that is, defective and deficient knowledge which does not match reality and, it does not need to be said, does not equate with Divine knowledge. And consider well that what the Rambam said is true of his own opinion, and his knowledge, too, was only as good as the knowledge of his generation, and no more. See, above, what the Rambam wrote about vermin which do not reproduce; he erred on matters of reality.
And with this we have concluded the first section, the section on vermin, in order that you should learn and check the words of Chazal, the Rishonim, and Achronim to see if they have been verified by reality; that you should be as a thinking man and not as a fool who accepts everything without checking and verifying against reality. And be strengthened by the words of the Rambam, “but all that can be clarified so that it matches proven reality is better and more correct,” for from reality shall come conjecture and not vice versa.
And in addition, a footnote:
Seven pamphlets have already been printed and distributed to the public. Each of them deals with a different aspect of halacha and science. While we have been publicizing our words, as the wisest of all men said, “the wisdom will rejoice in public,” the question arose of whether we have the right to publicize them to yeshiva students. The many true believers who publicize Torah and commandments to the secular in an attempt to “return them to religion” are well known, so why aren’t the secular allowed to publicize their wisdom to the Charedi public to open their eyes and lead them from the darkness into the light?
And on this question Rabbi Mordechai Gerlitz, in the HaModianewspaper, wrote an article titled “Elul on both sides of the wall,”and these are his words: “It is just the duty of secular to and take interest in what is happening on the other side of the wall…but the people of the religious camp, on the other hand, have an opposite obligation: to fortify themselves on their own side, to believe only in the truth which exists in their own camp and not to pay any slight attention to listen, G-d forbid, to the voices which come from the other side of the wall!” These bare words were really written in a Charedi newspaper, meaning that the Torah and its sages can not deal with the questions of those who do not believe in Torah from the heavens, and therefore “every glance at the other side of the wall” will be considered a grievous sin.
Did anyone ever forbid, in a secular newspaper, “peeking at the other side of the wall”? It seems that the secular believe in their immunity and the truth of their beliefs more than R’ Gerlitz believes in the power of his faith to stand criticism, even of a hasty glance!
And you, dear student, you are free to seek knowledge. Listen to all teaching and use your judgement, consideration, and logic. If the things are true, adopt them, and if they are not, cast them away. Do not let your teacher deny you any opinion, for in that he not only denies you choice, but denies you the chance to choose. You should be free to understand and become wise; do not be afraid to distribute these words of true knowledge to your friends.
Anyone who wants additional copies of this pamphlet or any of the other pamphlets we’ve distributed should write to the following post box and we will gladly answer.